TAKE TIME TO UNDERSTAND YOUR LOVED ONE’S ADMISSIONS CONTRACT
When securing a long-term care facility for your loved one, you will have to decide whether or not to sign an often lengthy and confusing admission contract. Unfortunately, many caregivers do not understand what they are actually signing, thus providing the perfect opportunity for a facility to add illegal clauses that families unknowingly agree to.
For example, some admissions contracts include a clause that states a caregiver must pay the resident’s bill in the event that the resident cannot afford to do so. However, clauses like this are generally illegal. Yet, in the event that you unknowingly agreed to this clause in the admission contract, the nursing home can hire debt collectors, including law firms, to demand that you pay the unpaid bills; sometimes even going as far as personally suing you for the outstanding balance or reporting the debt to consumer credit reporting companies under your name.
HOW TO SPOT THE RISKS IN YOUR LOVED
Oftentimes you may not realize your loved one’s contract includes these clauses until the nursing homes attempts to collect from you personally. If you are already experiencing this pressure from a nursing home, it is important to reach out to a knowledgeable elder law attorney who can review the contract you signed and advise you on the best way to proceed.
If you haven’t yet signed a contract, it is a prudent idea to have the agreement reviewed by an expert elder law attorney so they can ensure these clauses are not present. At the very least, pay special attention to verbiage such as “responsible party” or “joint and several liability” in the admissions contract. Some contracts also include language about the caregiver’s liability for a completed Medicaid application or make the caregiver jointly liable with the resident for nursing home bills. In any event, make sure you read the contract thoroughly before you sign it.
HOW TO HOLD BAD ACTORS RESPONSIBLE
You can report the nursing home for violating the Nursing Home Reform Act. To do that, you will need to contact your state’s nursing home survey agency and file a complaint with your state attorney.
Finally, if you are having a problem with a debt collector, you can submit a complaint to the CFPB online or by calling (855) 411-2372.
*According to AARP and National Alliance for Caregiving. Caregiving in the United States 2020. Washington, DC: AARP. May 2020.